All in: Blue Jays, Dodgers going for it in 2013
Blockbuster trades, prominent free agents have Toronto, LA thinking big
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Go ahead and deal. The Dodgers are all in, and so are the Blue Jays. Let the chips -- and championships -- fall where they may.
Of all the movers and shakers across Major League Baseball the past nine months, none have been more committed to moving and shaking the landscape than the franchises in Los Angeles and Toronto. They'll meet for a three-game series north of the border in July to compare notes, and they'd love to do it again in October with the whole world watching a true blue Fall Classic.
The Dodgers haven't graced a World Series since 1988, when they humbled the Athletics' "Bash Brothers." They've made six postseason appearances since then, most recently in 2009. Toronto has been absent from the postseason since 1993, when the Blue Jays, at the expense of the Phillies, made it back-to-back World Series titles.
Missing from the big stage too long in their fans' hearts and minds, the Dodgers and Blue Jays have made bold statements through their actions. They are determined to make October meaningful again in 2013.
Taking their cue from the reigning World Series champion Giants, who won it all for the second time in three years behind superlative pitching, the Dodgers and Blue Jays have invested heavily in arms.
R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle could make Toronto's rotation, along with Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ, the envy of the American League. Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu have arrived at considerable expense to join ace Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley, most likely, in a potentially dominant Los Angeles starting corps.
The Dodgers and Blue Jays also have put together lineups that could be lethal if the power and speed components mesh as anticipated.
A return to peak health, notably for Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez in L.A. and Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie in Toronto, will factor heavily into how these attacks function. Ramirez (surgery, right thumb) and Lawrie (strained oblique) will be absent on Opening Day, creating left-side infield adjustments for both clubs.
In the big scheme, Dodgers and Blue Jays fans have to be excited by the possibilities.
"It's a new day in Dodgertown," part-owner Magic Johnson declared last May when the Guggenheim Partners formalized their purchase of the Dodgers from the McCourts. The new ownership group, good on its promises to the fans, has spent -- and spent -- to upgrade the current roster while making a major impact in the international market.
It was Nov. 19 when news of the Jays' blockbuster deal with the Marlins rocked two countries -- and the AL East. The Jays acquired Johnson and Buehrle, gifted shortstop and 2011 National League batting champion Jose Reyes, versatile utility man Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck for four players with MLB experience and three Minor Leaguers.
In another move, popular John Gibbons was welcomed back as the Blue Jays' manager to replace John Farrell, who moved to the Red Sox.
"I don't think we look at this team as being anything other than a contender," club president Paul Beeston said after general manager Alex Anthopoulos completed the ambitious deal. "I don't want to put it into the context of what number of wins we're going to have, but it's built to win. I think that was the way that it came together when we made the trade."
Rogers Communications, the Blue Jays' ownership group, approved the payroll additions that lifted the team from $75 million to a franchise-record $114.8 million, according to Baseball-Reference.com. The Dodgers have an MLB-high payroll of $217.2 million, with at least $122 million committed each season through 2017.
Buck was flipped to the Mets along with promising catcher Travis d'Arnaud and two other prospects in the deal that further fortified the Blue Jays' rotation with reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Dickey, along with catcher Josh Thole. Not done there, the Blue Jays also acquired free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, who hit .346 with the Giants before a ban for performance-enhancing drugs in August, and added versatile infielder Maicer Izturis.
Reyes, coming off a starring role for the World Baseball Classic champion Dominican Republic, is a lightning-rod for teammates and fans alike with his glowing enthusiasm and spectacular talents.
"[Former Blue Jays star] Carlos Delgado is a great friend of mine," Reyes said. "He told me a lot about Toronto and how great the city is. I'm looking forward to stepping on the field and meeting the fans there. ... I'm very excited to be part of this team."
In magnitude and scope, the Blue Jays-Marlins swap was comparable to the megadeal the Dodgers struck with the Red Sox last August. Having already acquired Ramirez from the Marlins, the Dodgers got Adrian Gonzalez, Beckett, Crawford and Nick Punto from Boston in exchange for James Loney and four prospects.
Expanding their horizons while reaching into the vault for a combined outlay of $103.7 million, the Dodgers landed Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig in June and Ryu, Korea's best arm, in December.
Both have had brilliant springs. Ryu has earned a rotation slot, while Puig, an explosive athlete in the Kemp mold, did everything in his power to show he needs no further Minor League seasoning after 23 games last summer. He was still sent to Double-A Chattanooga, as planned.
Last summer, the new arrivals in L.A. via Miami and Boston didn't pay immediate dividends. The Dodgers lagged behind the Giants in the NL West and came up two games short in the Wild Card derby. Yet optimism abounds this spring now that all the new Dodgers have settled in and grown comfortable with their surroundings.
"This year's different," said versatile infielder Luis Cruz, the team's major discovery last year. "We've had time in Spring Training to get along. I think the guys are very happy with how everybody is coming together. We're all hungry to go to the playoffs and World Series."
Johnson, the face and inspirational force of the ownership group, addressed the club last week, stressing the importance of "embracing the expectations and having fun" in pursuit of excellence and postseason jewelry.
"This city is about expectations," Magic said. "I love it, because it reminds me of the old Dodgers, the old Lakers. I'd rather have high expectations than no expectations."
Just win, baby. Manager Don Mattingly grasps the relevance of the Raiders' old slogan.
"It's important to be out in the open," Mattingly said. "This is what we expect. These are our parameters. This is our road map. For us, it's [about going] all the way. We'd like to talk about a parade along the way. That's the goal. That's where the map leads."
The two superstars of the '80s, Magic and Mattingly, are on the same wavelength.
Dodgers management, led by former Braves chief executive Stan Kasten, has not been shy about expressing its intentions.
"We're in a market where fans expect to contend now," Kasten, the club's president, said. "There's this real thing called Dodger pride. As someone who has competed 3,000 miles away, it's a feeling that doesn't exist with other franchises. Players feel it the first time they put on their uniforms."
Getting to know Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter, Johnson was reminded of his glory days with the five-time NBA champion Lakers and their late owner, Jerry Buss.
"Mark's like Dr. Buss," Magic said. "He'll put money into the team and stay out of the way. He wants to win."
Walter and the new management team were introduced in a Dodger Stadium press conference last May by legendary play-by-play voice Vin Scully.
"It's time," Scully said, "to meet the group that will bring the Dodgers higher than the Sistine Chapel."
Dodger Nation is uplifted by an excitement shared by the good citizens of Toronto and its environs.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.